Migrant teenagers’ acquisition of sociolinguistic variation

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This paper investigates the acquisition of the sociolinguistic constraints of two variables, (ing) and (t), by non-native teenagers of Polish origin in both London and Edinburgh. First, the native sociolinguistic constraints on variation of (ing) and (t) are identified. These are then compared with the sociolinguistic constraints of two groups of non-native teenagers living in London and Edinburgh. Results of a multivariate analysis indicate that Polish adolescent immigrants do not acquire the exact same constraints on variation as their local peer group, and that the acquisition of variation varies from variable to variable, which may be due to the character of the variable and its constraint complexity. Learners seem to be using various strategies when acquiring variation in the realisation of these variables in the English of the speech community into which they have moved. While some variable constraints are replicated, there is also evidence of reallocation of the relative importance of variable input constraints in the output variation. Some constraints are altered, rejected and newly constructed, which seems more likely with some kinds of structured variation than others.


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